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Former SDSU Football Coach Fred Bleil Passes Away

Former Aztec secondary and special teams coach Fred Bleil passed away on Sunday night after battling cancer.
Former Aztec secondary and special teams coach Fred Bleil passed away on Sunday night after battling cancer.

Sept. 26, 2011

SAN DIEGO - Former secondary and special teams coach Fred Bleil, who coached at San Diego State from 1998-2005, passed away on Monday after battling cancer. He was 62.

Under Bleil's direction, the Aztec secondary became a force in the Mountain West and across the nation. SDSU improved from 86th in the country in pass defense in 2002 to fourth in 2003 due in part to Aztec cornerbacks Jacob Elimimian and Jeff Shoate. In 2003, the duo ranked first and second, respectively, in the Mountain West in passes defended and Elimimian was third in the league in interceptions.

SDSU's Will Demps earned two-straight first-team all-conference selections under Bleil's tutelage and went on to become a rookie starter with the Baltimore Ravens. Demps would also play for the New York Giants and Houston Texans. Another former Aztec, safety Brian Russell (whom Bleil helped convert from quarterback), went on to a professional career with the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns and was the NFL leader in interceptions in 2003. Russell also played for the Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. In 2005, Aztec safety Marviel Underwood was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round, while Shoate was a fifth-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2004.

During his career, Bleil had just as much success at his other coaching stops. As the team's defensive coordinator, North Texas finished in the top three in the Big West in scoring defense in both 1996 and 1997, and ranked second in the league in pass defense in 1996. In four seasons as the defensive coordinator at New Mexico from 1992-95, he helped improve the Lobo defense from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best in the WAC. Bleil also was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Utah State from 1986-1991, and was head coach at New Mexico Highlands from 1979-1982, earning league coach-of-the-year honors in 1981.

After leaving San Diego State, the Remsen, Iowa, native coached at North Texas, as well as Tulane and Texas State.

Bleil played football at Northern Iowa in 1967, and went on to earn his degree at Westmar College in 1971. He added a master's degree to his resume in 1972 from Eastern New Mexico.